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Keeping Younger Pitchers in the Game

Studies of Conditioning and Elbow Mechanics Lead to New Recommendations for Training

Findings from new research conducted at Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit conclude that better conditioning and modifications to throwing mechanics can reduce the risk of elbow injury in younger baseball pitchers. The pair of studies add new weight to the body of sports medicine inquiry into higher incidences of elbow overuse injuries. Lead author Eric Makhni, MD, a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon at Henry Ford, commented, “We’re seeing kids in our office age 10, 11, and 12 with shoulder and elbow injuries that are directly related to overuse injuries. Our research was motivated in order to try and figure out what is causing this increase in injury risk.” The team’s conclusions are published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

To evaluate the impact of arm fatigue on elbow torque, 11 pitchers aged 15 to 20 years threw a randomized sequence of pitches while wearing a data tracking compression sleeve. This data was combined with radar measurements of pitch velocity. Researchers observed that as the pitcher tired, and pitch speed dropped, their elbow mechanics altered to increase stress on the elbow alone. In a second study using the same data collection device, the research team compiled predictors of elbow torque that included the pitcher’s body mass index, throwing force, and decreased arm slot. The studies also found that with increased pitching experience, body mechanics tended to improve such that less stress was put on the elbow. Dr. Makhni observed, “It's very important for youth pitchers, especially our younger pitchers, to get a good focus early on. Not only on getting proper rest and recovery between innings or throws, but also to work on mechanics and conditioning so the elbow experiences the least stress possible.”

Read about the findings and recommendations.

The journal abstracts may be read here and here.

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